For years, McVie dreamt about buying a boat. With the success of Fleetwood Mac, he was able to get one of the best. And when Christine asked for a separation, he moved on board, storing away everything but some sailing books, a radio, a television set and numerous statuettes of penguins.
McVie, who is 30, claims that he's "much more comfortable here than in a house anyway." But he seems oddly unhappy. He is a solemn man. If he is pleased with realizing one of his fantasies, his poker face doesn't show it.
One wonders what success has meant to him.
"This," he says quietly, knocking the stern of the boat, "the freedom to be here, rather than slogging your heart out in Hollywood. But this isn't . . . would you say this is a luxury? If there was a house with it, I'd say so. But this is half the price of a house."
John McVie, the Mac in Fleetwood Mac, started the band with Mick Fleetwood, Jeremy Spencer and Peter Green in '67. Before that he was a four-year charter member of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. He has seen Fleetwood Mac through the complete musical spectrum – six guitarists, three label changes, innumerable tours, every album and many, many times more bad than good.
If Fleetwood Mac had been a mediocre-selling album for the band, there would have been no desperation breakup. If Buckingham or Nicks hadn't worked out, McVie would have dutifully helped find replacements. He's a strange creature to rock & roll: a patient man.
"Fleetwood Mac was doing fine before that album," he figures. "People are always asking me, 'How does it feel to have made it?' If that's the case, what do I do now? Now that I've 'made it'? I hate that phrase." For once, his voice is audible above the din of the marina.
"I didn't anticipate all the commotion around the last album," he says. "Not as much as 4 million sales. There's a lot of good albums we've done. It's just one of those things – the right album at the right time. But that's the criteria of making it in this business: a big album. Then you get your own TV show, you go make a movie. It's not important. Being seen wearing a Gucci suit . . . that syndrome is so sad."
So what's the motivation to be around it for more than 14 years?
"Playing bass," comes the ready reply. "I'm not a dedicated musician particularly, but it's the one thing I enjoy doing."
Would he soon consider retiring?
"What would I do? Sit on the boat, but that would get as boring as sitting around the studio . . ."
One cautiously broaches the subject of his split with Christine. It must have been a major turning point . . .
"Yeah," McVie agrees. "It still affects me. I'm still adjusting to the fact that it's not John and Chris anymore. It goes up and down."
Feeling suddenly awkward, McVie stops and assembles a statement explaining himself. "It's difficult to tell someone, 'Yeah, I'm this kind of person . . . 'The quiet thing is fine," he says softly. "If I had anything that I thought was world-shaking or profound, I'd say something. I really can't come up with anything on politics, state of society, the relation of music to society . . . it's just horseshit. I play bass."
McVie sounds like his soft-spoken fellow member from the Bluesbreakers, Eric Clapton, in both philosophy and personality. (Christine McVie: "Those two? They're like two peas out of the same pod.")
Clapton has said he finds his personality by drinking . . .
"I drink too much, period," McVie bristles, "but when I've drunk too much, a personality comes out. It's not very pleasant to be around."
In the end, John McVie is a droll, likable gentleman with a sullen aura. Used to touring and recording with his wife and band, he is suddenly alone on his boat.
"He'll cheer up," an associate of the band says with a laugh. "He always does. Everyone's attitude is just to leave him to himself. They know there's only one thing that could bring him around instantly: an affair with Linda Ronstadt."
McVie wistfully admits to this crush. Last year, suspiciously soon after learning that Fleetwood Mac would be on the Rock Music Awards show with Ronstadt as a fellow nominee, he bought an exquisitely tailored burgundy velvet, three-piece outfit. He wore it that night, and Fleetwood Mac won Rock Group of the Year, among other honors.
Ronstadt never showed up.
Mick Fleetwood's the tall (6'6"), menacing-looking one who is, for all purposes, the manager of the band.
When former manager Clifford Davis burned his bridges by sending out a bogus band with the same name, Fleetwood Mac was too broke to find another. Decisions fell directly to Fleetwood and McVie, the original members and owners of the name. McVie held no ambitions as a businessman, but Fleetwood became obsessed with the music business. He grew to love the new responsibility of managing himself. Fleetwood retained a lawyer, Michael "Mickey" Shapiro, and together they guide the band's career.
Fleetwood is surely in his element this morning. We're sitting in the executive conference room at the tip of a private Warners jet returning to L.A. from a last-minute Fleetwood Mac benefit in Indiana for Birch Bayh.
"Everything has taken a very natural course," he reflects pleasantly. "We've never made records with the attitude of making hits. With us, it's potluck. The fact that they are is great.
"That's not just from the present lineup of the band, that's going back years and years. Like when Peter wrote 'Albatross' [Fleetwood Mac's first successful single in England]. Everyone thought it was a concerted effort. It was a complete accident that it was a hit. The BBC used it for some wildlife program and then someone put it on Top of the Pops and it was a hit. If Rumours was a radical failure, I'm sure we'd all be disturbed, but we wouldn't feel disillusioned."
Mick Fleetwood, like John McVie, cannot think of a time when he was ever frustrated with the band's stalled sales figures. After ten years, they value Fleetwood Mac more as a way of life than as a business investment. Success was a pleasant surprise. "You go to the office every day and you don't think about it in the end, you just go," Fleetwood explains. "That's what we were doing. Being part of Fleetwood Mac, playing through the ups and downs."
Fleetwood is resolute: "I could have never planned any of this. I don't even believe in making plans. They only create an atmosphere of disappointment. So it's not a day-to-day situation with us, but there's always full potential of either great things happening or totally disastrous things happening. That is very important to me personally . . . Fleetwood Mac, from point one, has been like that. We'll always be able to move without breaking a leg . . ."
I definitely want to have a baby in the next four years. For sure, I want to have one or two children and I don't want to wait any further than, say, 34. This is all part of my plan. By that time I hope that I'll be living up in the mountains somewhere with a very pretty house and a piano and a tape recorder, just writing, and then going to New York every once in a while to shop. I love that too, but I mostly just like to be in a really warm place with a bunch of animals, dogs and cats."
It's a long way from Peter Green.
Twenty-eight-year-old Stephanie "Stevie" Nicks is an endearing blend of beatnik poet and sassy rock & roller. One thing for sure: success does not faze her. She has, in fact, lived around it much of her life. Until heart surgery forced him into early retirement two years ago, her father, Jeff Nicks, was simultaneously executive vice-president of Greyhound and president of Armour Meats. Stevie, the only girl, was "the star in my family's sky."
Born in Phoenix and raised along her father's corporate climb in Los Angeles, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and finally San Francisco, she nearly graduated from San Jose State with a degree in speech communication. Instead, she quit a few months early to go on the road in 1968 with an acid-rock band called Fritz.
"That did not amuse my parents too much," Stevie notes wryly. Just out of the shower and toweling off her mousy-brown-flecked-with-green-tint hair on an antique couch in her Hollywood Hills duplex, she makes easy conversation. "They wanted me to do what I wanted to do. They were just worried I was going to get down to 80 pounds and be a miserable, burnt out 27-year-old."
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